We can all agree that being a mom is hard. As women, we’ve likely faced the pull to compare and compete our entire lives, but becoming a mom can take this to a whole new level. So how can we disarm the lies women believe like, I’m not good enough? In this article, Marnie Hammar shares 3 ways moms can avoid the comparison trap and focus on running the unique race to which each of us have been called.
It happened not long after our third son arrived. I was bending down to pick up Hot Wheels and those black and orange race track pieces from the floor. I distinctly remember being thankful that at the age of 39, after a difficult pregnancy, my postpartum body could bend over again. When suddenly a thought floated across my consciousness.
A girl wouldn’t leave her stuff on the floor.
Okay, wait. What had triggered this thought? I’m a girl. And, believe me, my husband would be the first to tell you I leave my stuff on the floor all the time. What was going on?
being a mom is hard
In the weeks since our new little man arrived, I was still getting used to this all-boy family of mine. We knew our family was complete with this last sweet babe. And God had spoken to my heart about His purposes for our three sons. I felt thankful to be part of those plans. But right there, in that brief snatch of peace and quiet during nap time, in the middle of metal cars and plastic tracks, the enemy was trying to unsettle me. He knew my heart was still adjusting. And he was trying to make me wonder if my family might be ‘better’ somehow if we had a girl. He was trying to divide my heart.
And he chose a tool as old as time: comparison.
Being a mom is hard enough with the exhaustion and sometimes even the neglect of our own souls as we tend to our families. The battles we face in our minds get louder when we’re weary, anxious, unsure, and spiritually empty. And the enemy’s known that—for a really long time.
IT BEGAN IN THE BEGINNING
Since the garden, the enemy has been using the weapon of comparison as a means of division. It was first deployed when the serpent tempted Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). He didn’t want Adam and Eve to be close to God. So he plotted to divide them. And it worked.
From then on, comparison plagued those early Genesis mamas:
- Sarah compared her barren womb to Hagar’s ability to offer Abraham a son (see Genesis 16,21).
- Rebekah compared her sons, favoring one enough to steal the other’s birthright (see Genesis 25,27).
- Rachel and Leah compared themselves to each other their entire lives, longing for what the other sister had (See Genesis 29-30).
A Pull to comparison
This tendency toward comparison that we read about in the pages of Scripture still torments our own hearts today. That day in the playroom shone a new light on this tactic from the enemy. However, the enemy’s attempt to lower how I viewed these boys whom God handpicked for our family instead became a defining moment in understanding this battle we face every day.
Sometimes—perhaps even much of the time—when those half-truths float across our minds, the lies aren’t always clear to us. We sometimes absorb them into our souls without even realizing. When we believe the whispers, they can render our hearts ineffective, discouraged, despondent, even bitter. You know the ones. I’m so flawed, I’m failing, I’ll never measure up, I’m always behind, I don’t fit, I’m not good enough.
Even as I’ve been writing this, the enemy keeps poking, telling me to stop. “Who are you? You have no business writing this.” It’s taken me weeks longer than it should have to pound out these words because of those taunts and jabs. At first, I didn’t even recognize it. And that’s his hope, isn’t it? He’s gonna keep trying to sneak these lies by us, hoping we don’t discern them. And he’ll use other means to try to keep us from realizing, too. Like hiding behind the relentless pull of our comparison-driven culture.
THE CULTURE OF COMPARISON
Our culture not only buys into the enemy’s lies, it amplifies them. Without even realizing, we measure ourselves against everything around us. That quick errand, the quick conversation, that quick scroll. They all come with an invitation to see where we’re falling short. We’re surrounded by messages that tell us we need to be better or richer or faster or stronger. We feel scarcity and competition, acting from fear and self-preservation and entitlement. So we scramble to hurry and get our place before we miss out—before there isn’t room.
We’ve likely faced this pull to compare and compete our entire lives. But when we become moms, these sweet little faces and hearts and souls that we’re trying to train up bring a whole new level of comparison. We compare what our families look like, how our children behave and develop, how they succeed in academics and activities and sports, how much they love Jesus, what class ranking they have, how many friends they have. We even compare how many devotions we read to them, what Bible we buy them, and how many verses they memorize.
Warnings against comparison
Yes, we feel it all around us, as our culture pushes and presses us to strive and compare. But warnings against comparison were evident in Scripture long before they first appeared in our social media feeds or in the pickup line.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).
“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
When we feel scarcity, jealousy, or fear of failure, we may be tempted to blame the unrealistic expectations embedded within our culture. In reality, though, the culprit is the weed of comparison that first began in the garden and now grows wildly, unchecked, and unchallenged in our fallen world, spreading disorder, discontent, and competition.
What better way for the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy than to focus on nurturing those very things in the quiet of our hearts?
STOPPING THE CYCLE
When we even dip a toe into the comparison spiral, we make a decision about where we’re looking. Comparison invites us to lower our sights, redirecting our focus to what and who is next to us. And what happens when I look to the side? I take my eyes off Jesus.
The way out of comparison, then, is to recognize when we’re tempted to take our eyes off Jesus and be intentional about disarming the lies. We can do this by noticing what we’re believing, paying attention to where we’re looking, and resting where we’re called.
1. What Are You Believing?
This is the most critical question to ask ourselves—and the hardest. Sometimes we recognize the lies, but other times, especially when we’re in unhealthy places, we just don’t see it right away. I am especially susceptible to the lies when my spirit is weak and weary.
One of the quickest ways that I know I might be internalizing lies and thus stepping into the comparison cycle is when I feel ‘icky’. Super-scientific, right? I’ve learned that for me, this feeling can represent a whole host of things—insecurity, envy, pride, fear. When I feel icky, or I’m taking more deep breaths than usual, or I feel flustered, I might be succumbing to the comparison game without even realizing. I may not immediately recognize the lie, but I most certainly know when I no longer feel His peace. That’s a sign I need to take notice of what I’m believing.
As followers of Jesus, we receive the mind of Christ. Through His Spirit, our hearts can know when we’re believing lies.
Lean on his spirit
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:12b-16).
We’re cautioned to protect our hearts—“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)—and that means we also need to carefully examine what we’re believing. Even with the mind of Christ, we will face battles in our hearts and minds. When we entertain the enemy’s lies, and we feel God’s peace slip from us, the discord in our souls will betray the lies, because those lies are inherently at odds with who we are and, more importantly, Whose we are.
2. Where Are You Looking?
One of my favorite stories in Scripture is found in Habakkuk. The book opens with the prophet lamenting to God about what is happening around him, and then, in chapter 2, he says, “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer…” (Habakkuk 2:1-2a).
Oh, I do love a good lament session with Jesus. But here, Habakkuk pulls himself away from his lament by literally changing his view. Instead of remaining where he is, looking at what’s wrong around him, he takes himself up to the watchtower. He changes from looking side to side, to looking ahead and watching for God, waiting for God to speak. And that, right there, is how we step out of the cycle—by noticing the lies, and then waiting for God to speak into our circumstances. When we go up to the watchtower, and we set our sights on Him and what He has for us, then “our ways will be sure” (Proverbs 4:26).
3. Where Are You Called?
I ran a half-marathon once. In the last mile, I felt a rip across my left knee, from the inside across the front. Here I was, in the middle of a race, my sights set on the finish, and I was limping. In the preceding months of training, this verse was dear to me: “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a). But in the middle of the race, that verse became even more important.
I had a choice to make. Would I keep going, or would I stop? (Hint: The medal still hangs in my office.)
That injury began a many-chaptered journey toward my partial knee replacement earlier this year. I’ve had to repeatedly make a choice to focus on the race I’m called to, however different that looks from what I envisioned. Though my knee pain threatened to sideline me, I learned that my race still keeps going.
the race continues
I can question my race, or I can run (or, at many points, limp) with perseverance in the race that is set before me. My job isn’t to run the perfect race—it’s to keep my eyes on the Author and Perfecter. The One who sets the course. The One who writes my story.
Mamas, when we stop looking at those running next to us—when we recognize the lies that cross our mind, when we change where we’re looking, and when we focus on where we’re called—then we can see that comparing doesn’t actually even make sense. Your race is your race; your calling is your calling; your purpose is your purpose. It’s like no other. It can’t be compared. And, perhaps easiest to forget, it’s always, only about Him.
yes, being a mom is hard. but remember…
Comparison stops when we opt out of the spiral—but it’s defeated when we are at peace with where He has us in this season. Yes, being a mom is hard in a world of comparison, but let’s remember we’re not called to this world.
We’re called to so much more.
“The Lord will work out his plans for my life, for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).
What lies has the enemy whispered to you to derail your motherhood journey? What steps could you take, even today, to start disarming the lies of comparison and focus instead on the unique race to which you have been called?
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So good! I need to hear these words often to avoid the comparison trap. The Enemy is definitely having a heyday with this comparison culture we’ve created. Thanks for reminding us there’s a way out.
Lori Ann, our comparison culture is exhausting, isn’t it? It’s so hard to avoid the constant wonder of where we fit and how we’re stacking up. Thankful there is a way out, and praying that we can hold fast to it!
Thanks, Marnie. This post is a full on immersion in truth.
And now that I have a granddaughter, I can vouch for your conclusion that girls DO indeed leave things on the floor!
Michele, that is hilarious! And so thankful for the truth that helps us to see those lies — no matter how real or ridiculous they are. ENJOY that sweet granddaughter, and the picking up of those things!! 🙂